For years, marketing has taken a backseat to many other functions within a manufacturing business. Sales, engineering, and operations seemed to rule the day, while marketing was often an afterthought.

Fortunately, the perception around marketing is finally changing in manufacturing. Some industrial leaders are finally starting to “get it.”

Sure, there are still plenty of companies that think of flyers and white papers when the word “marketing” is mentioned, but modern manufacturing executives know marketing should be more than trade shows, the website, and sales support.

But even companies that know marketing should be a revenue-generator still miss the mark in some areas that prevent marketing from reaching its full potential. Below are 3 of the most common mistakes I see manufacturers make when trying to take their marketing game to the next level:

1/ Manufacturers Try to Market to Everyone

Whether you serve 1 type of customer or 100, your marketing should be targeted.

“But we work with customers in every industry!” is usually one of the first comments you’ll hear a manufacturer say about their customer base in defense of their broad stroke marketing approach.

They’ll say they need a message that will resonate with everyone, from the engineer at a medical device manufacturer to the plant manager at a mid-sized CPG company.

But when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Your message becomes watered down, easily ignored, or worst of all, not even heard by your ideal customer at all.

Solution: Define your ideal customer persona

Whether your marketing department has been nonexistent or focused on non-revenue-generating activities, resetting your efforts to focus on a couple of personas within 1 or 2 industries is a great place to start.

Narrowing your marketing focus can feel uncomfortable at first. “But what about all our other customers?” they’ll say!

But if your messages have not been resonating and or gaining trust with your ideal buyer, it’s basically like you haven’t been marketing to them anyway.

To get more laser focused, I recommend writing a few paragraphs about your ideal customer. Give them a name. Give them a personality.

It’s a lot easier to market to Tanya – who’s a 41-year-old President at a precision machine shop in St. Louis, MO who’s focused on scaling her business while attracting the next generation of talent to her shop floor – than it is “the owner of a small US machine shop.”

When you’re building out your marketing messaging, you want to be able to ask yourself “Does Tanya care about this? Is it solving a problem or answering a question Tanya has?”

2/ Manufacturers Create the Wrong Kind of Content

I love seeing manufacturers invest in marketing. I don’t like seeing them invest in the wrong kind of marketing.

During my 15 years in the manufacturing industry, I’ve seen too many overly-polished, high-fidelity videos featuring drone shots of factories and 8 minutes of interviews with employees discussing their product’s #1 feature, or how customer service is their top differentiator.

You’ve seen these videos before too and you probably have trouble remembering who these videos were about, or what really set these companies apart.

Tanya also didn’t see your video because she doesn’t know your company exists, but if she saw it, it might have gotten lost in the noise.

Don’t get me wrong, these videos look great and there’s often some good messaging baked in. But don’t spend all your effort (and money) creating one video and then moving on the next email campaign or webinar. You’ll be missing out on opportunities to build an even more valuable library of marketing material that your target audience can engage with on a regular basis.

Solution: Focus on creating bite-sized, consistent content

I want to be clear about this again: It’s okay to create professionally-produced videos and large pieces of “pillar content.” These should absolutely be part of your strategy. However, when these are an outsized portion of your content strategy, that’s where “micro content” can be a great supplement.

Micro content comes in many forms. It can be a written post on LinkedIn. It can be a short video with a quick insight filmed on a smartphone at a trade show. And it doesn’t require thousands of dollars to create, but it should touch on topics that are meaningful to your ideal customer persona.

If you’re trying to think of topics for your micro content, try coming up with as many answers as possible to each of these questions:

  • What are your ideal customer’s goals or pain points?
  • What are common objections you encounter during the sales process?
  • What Frequently Asked Questions is your target customer typically asking you?

The long list of answers to these questions can build out your micro content library very quickly. Now you’re ready to start turning these topics into marketing content, and it doesn’t need to be the marketing team doing all the work…

For example, Dexter is the CEO of a widget manufacturer that serves small machine shops in the Midwest. Tanya happens to be his ideal customer.

Dexter’s marketing department recently convinced him to start creating some content of his own, and they’re working with him to help him get over his initial camera shyness (and to make sure he stays somewhat within the brand guidelines of course).

I’m confident in guessing Tanya would rather see a few raw-yet-educational videos from Dexter than a Hollywood-worthy video covering his widget’s capabilities. At the very least, that consistency starts to build trust and increases the likelihood Dexter’s message reaches Tanya. 

3/ Manufacturers Don’t Leverage the Personal Brands of the People at their Company

Let’s jump ahead a few months… It’s the next quarter and Dexter is creating content alongside your marketing team on a regular basis. It’s a habit. Excellent!

In the meantime, Tanya is regularly seeing his videos pop up and she even subscribed to his company’s newsletter. She doesn’t plan on buying anything from him right now (at least not yet), but trust is being built.

Dexter’s team’s marketing strategy shouldn’t stop with Dexter though. The CEO isn’t the only person within a company whose voice should be heard.

Some of the most valuable-yet-untapped marketing resources a company has at their disposal often go untapped: All of the smart, experienced people that work there.

Solution: Build a content strategy that leverages the expertise of your people and humanizes your brand

From the folks on the shop floor to your customer success organization, even small companies are built on teams of people with their own unique personalities and experiences. They’re on the front lines of your ideal customer’s world every day and they have perspectives on the challenges and questions they have.

Your team might not have worked with Tanya specifically, but they have a good idea what makes someone like Tanya tick.

In fact, customers are 3 times more likely to trust company information shared by an employee than by a CEO1 and 92 percent more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family over any kind of marketing.2 Even without the stats, if you think of your own buying behavior, you already know this is true. We live in a world where online reviews have become the default mechanism that increases our trust in a product, service, or company.

Incorporating your people into your content marketing allows your marketing strategy to grow. You’re no longer dependent on one voice or one campaign to reach your audience. You have a team of people that are amplifying your brand’s message while adding that human touch.

If you have 10 team members that are active on LinkedIn, creating videos, and being online ambassadors for your brand, to an extent, you’ve increased your reach 10-fold and 10x’ed the amount of trust that’s being built with your ideal customer.

Now, Tanya isn’t just a fan of Dexter, she’s a fan of his company because she’s a fan of all the other people that work there too.


1 Edelman
2 Nielsen